Last month students at NYCC, or the New York Chiropractic College, were dealt a major blow. 

Seniors were notified weeks before a required practical exam to become a board licensed chiropractor that it would not take place at the Seneca Falls campus. 

That word came down on May 6, and the practical exam, which is administered by NBCE, or the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, came at an already difficult time. For a chiropractic student to become a chiropractor, a multi-part test is required. 

The practical portion is hands-on, which presents a problem during a global pandemic. Jordan Maxwell, who serves as class president of the seniors at NYCC, said students were blindsided by the announcement, which left many wondering if the college had gone to bat for them. 

“On Wednesday, May 6 at 4:30 p.m. we received communications directly from the board, and in that communication, they basically told us that our school had withdrawn from being an available site,” Maxwell explained. "All the other sites were full at the time. We're all bombarding the board, trying to get an explanation, wondering what is going on – trying to get them to open up spots elsewhere or come up with some other agreement. But they weren't budging."

That test, which would have taken place in July, would mean that if not completed, those seniors would need to wait until November or later to complete the practical when it is offered again.

Maxwell and other students were not satisfied with NYCC President Jonathan Mestan. At the time, he contended that the state had final say. “NYCC is willing to have NBCE administer exams on the College’s campus as soon as we are authorized by New York State to safely reopen our facilities and to reasonably provide accommodations under any restrictions on operations,” he said. “We have invited the NBCE to submit a testing plan that outlines the best practices they will employ for disinfecting, social distancing, and use of personal protection equipment. NYCC will work closely with our local department of health to explain the essential nature of the examinations and their plan for protecting all the participants in the examinations.”

Last week the Board of Supervisors held its monthly committee sessions, which included a lengthy discussion about the future of the school. Campus officials want to see NYCC get up-and-running by July. However, not all supervisors agreed.

Students are falling behind faster at NYCC due to the trimester system that the college uses. Instead of typical semesters, of which there are two in an academic calendar, NYCC has three trimesters. This means that two “cycles” will have been missed, and for students that means valuable clinic time. The college has converted much of what was not offered online to digital classes.

Mestan wrote a letter to the board, which was at the center of debate within the meeting room. “In addition, as a graduate health care college, hands-on training, including important clinical experiences in hospitals, VA centers, health clinics and other settings, is a critical component of the NYCC education,” he said in the letter. “Prior to this spring, nearly all doctoral courses would have been conducted in a face-to-face format. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the college faculty shifted to rearrange curriculum and offer remote course delivery for the spring term of May to August.”

NYCC flipped the coursework calendar upside down, which means that lab work and hands-on work that typically would have occurred in spring, will need to take place in the fall. Otherwise, students will fall completely out of sync with the graduation path.

It could cost students a significant amount of money.

“We want to do this in a way that will be safe for students and faculty and for the Seneca Falls community,” Mestan added in the letter. “We feel this is a good plan, and we are willing to modify it as needed by state officials. We feel confident we can do this and meet our goals and protect everyone. We need to notify students well in advance so they can schedule their return to campus.”

The supervisors voted 11–2 to support NYCC's quick return in July. Supervisors Kyle Barnhart (Lodi), and Ralph Lott (Seneca Falls) both voted against it. 

Vickie Swinehart, the County's public health director, weighed in on the plan, calling it “workable.” “The proposal describes plans for screening students, staff and visitors, wearing masks and social distancing. However, it is premature to finalize any plans as we cannot predict what the next few weeks will bring us or what new regulations or requirements may be in place at that time," she said. "As the public health director for Seneca County, charged with protecting the health and safety of our residents as well as visitors to our county, I do not endorse the proposal to permit NYCC to reopen ahead of the indicated Phase 4 of the governor’s re-opening plan."

To that end, if recent history is any indicator, it would appear as though Phase 4 is on the way for the region. Either later this month, or early July. 

It is unclear if that practical exam could happen in July on such short notice but looking beyond the immediate student implications of prolonged closure, Mestan urged the board to think about the long-term impact for Seneca County if the college could not move forward. As he noted, it is either reopen soon enough to make the next trimester occur, or face the harsh economic consequences waiting on the other side.

"This will certainly impact students’ goals and professional timelines, as well as have a significant impact on the college’s finances and ability to operate as an educational institution and regional employer," Mestan concluded.

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